Nasty accusation update

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Marguerite, Jul 20, 2010.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I posted a few weeks ago about a nasty accusation from a teacher of difficult child 3's. Well, school is back and I've finally heard from the principal. He said the teacher will ring me in a few days and will likely apologise. He read to me what the teacher had said to him, of her recollection of the conversation. But what he read was not what I recall was the WHOLE conversation. The principal heard the hesitation in my voice and wanted clarification, so I did say, "I recall she asked me very specifically - 'Did you write the task for your son?' "

    So it sounds to me like the teacher is now backpedalling to save face; "I never said that, but I can see how she might have misunderstood and taken it personally." OK, she wants to save face with her colleagues; I'm cool with that. But those who know me (such as the principal and the SpEd) know I don't over-react.

    I found out that as I had feared, the conversation I had with the teacher about her suspicions came AFTER a faculty meeting. So I want my name cleared with the faculty, please.

    I talked at length to the principal, not just about difficult child 3's case but also the other students the teacher had mentioned, who also had been flagged as possibly submitting work of a higher capability than seemed possible. I then gave my own response:

    1) The faculty had, prior to that task being completed by the students, put together an absolutely superb workshop day on the topic. I sat in on part of it and noted the high quality as well as the obvious inspiration and interest in the students present. It is quite possible for students, whose work is always improving, to have a leap of ability after an intense effective workshop for which the teachers must take credit too.

    2) A lot of the students at this school have some form of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and need a different way of learning. They also have splinter skills. In some tasks, these kids do badly. But given a topic they can write about with passion, they can often surprise you. I think that the students who have been flagged as a concern need to be checked for possible diagnosis, to see how many have splinter skills which could have been a factor.

    I still want to meet with the teacher to specifically discuss this but I suspect this will be difficult to organise if she wants to backpedal. I will then be accused of trying to make more trouble, by not "moving on". But I need to be assured that this teacher (the whole faculty, now that I know they're all involved) fully understand that this is NOT a deceptive child, but one who perhaps needs more support in order to be as capable as he was in tis task, in other areas also.

    The teacher made her assessment of difficult child 3 not being capable of this level of work, based on her vast experience of assessing in bulk the writing tasks of students across the state. But as I said in the previous thread, these other tasks she judge were mostly by PCs. I also judge students' writing and I can tell you that what stands out to me, what grabs my attention, is the stuff that screams "individuality!" and nothing is more individual than a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kid fluently describing something he's passionate about. Thinking that she's never seen it before therefore it can't be true - seems odd for an English teacher. It makes me want to quote Hamlet - "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

    I'll keep you posted on progress.

  2. ML

    ML Guest

    Well it sounds like things are progressing in a positive direction. I totally agree they must clear your name with the faculty to prevent further trouble. I'll be looking forward to hearing more positives about this topic.
  3. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I'm kinda torn here. On the one hand, I totally support that you would feel you want your name, and your son's, cleared with this teacher and the faculty, especially if the two of you were a topic of conversation at a faculty meeting. On the other hand, perhaps the continuation of the issue will be counterproductive to graciously accepting the apology and moving on.

    I do understand that this is a more sensitive situation than the norm given the responsibility you carry with the district. I also can understand the hackles raised when your integrity, and your child's honesty, is called into question.

    Wondering if a well thought-out, but short and to the point, letter to the teacher and faculty would serve? The principal could read it at their next faculty meeting. Perhaps a few examples of the fluidity of emotion and intellect when a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kid is faced with their passion can be addressed.

    The bottom line to me in all of this is that you are physically challenged right now with some health issues and the stress of this situation is not something you want to be dealing with in an ongoing way. Sometimes we have to do the shortest and most efficient thing, move on, and know in our hearts minds that we were right (or innocent) and that's what matters. You would never want them to look at you and quote another Shakespearian line from Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

  4. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Hopefully, the principal will set this right so that your difficult child is not thought of as being unable to complete the tasks unless mom does them
    for him as opposed to being his support and tutor. Good luck.
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    What I need to do is sit with the teacher and discuss the work in question, find out what it is she feels was of such suspicious merit, and try to work out in my own head where it came from. The entire point of any of tis exercise will be to try to find a way to:

    1) help difficult child 3 produce the same standard of work more often;

    2) help the teacher understand at a belief level that he CAN do it and therefore identify when and why he cannot, so we can help him do better more consistently;

    3) s I've already requested, work with difficult child 3 on how to use and write draft documents, because the work is only going to get more challenging and his inability to work with drafts is holding him back.

    I have the principal on side, as well as SpEd. The principal also said that a recent staff inservice (a few days ago) has enlightened a number of staff (including this teacher). I need to find out for myself how true this is, and maybe put in my oar specifically concerning difficult child 3 if it's needed.

    Part of how things work with this school, is the need to work together, parents and teachers. They need to trust me, we (parents) need to feel we can trust the staff to be honest with us.

    This teacher had a firm belief about me and difficult child 3 that I happen to know was not true. I had the advantage of knowing what we had not done. She as teacher had to take action of some sort, if she was convinced of her beliefs. But while ever those beliefs remain, we cannot move forward to help difficult child 3 with what he really needs. If what can come out of this is a better understanding of how splinter skills in these kids can cause tis kind of confusion but also give us some hope, then we have turned a difficult situation into a positive outcome. If the teacher still believes me to be a pushy dragon of a parent, I can live with that. But the logic just doesn't hold up. Trouble is, this isn't the most logical of faculties!

    There are other students who have also been judged to have cheated in similar way. I suspect that the same mistake could have been made with t least some of these kids. If this faulty belief is not resolved, then the problems will continue into the future and for this teacher (and the rest of the faculty ho share her opinions) the belief becomes self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating. Not good long-term for the school.

    They're good people. I don't want to see a lot of good work get undermined by such a basic mistake.

  6. WearyWoman

    WearyWoman Guest


    It sounds like you've handled the situation as well as you possibly could. I understand that it wasn't a pleasant experience to be asked if you wrote the task for your son. I hope though, that you are able to see things from the teacher's perspective as well. While her approach may have been poor, she has a responsibility as an educator to uphold academic integrity. I work in education, and issues like this are very common at every level. Any responsible educator should exercise due professional care in their assessments of learner progress. In the case of written work, that includes having reasonable assurance that the work is of the student's own doing. Now, that does not mean it's okay to make heated accusations without warrant. But, again, most educators who have been around for a while can spot things that are out of the ordinary, which in their judgment, arouses professional skepticism. An effective educator neither presumes dishonesty, nor unquestioned honesty. There is a difference between asking questions during a conversation and making outright accusations.

    I experienced a situation just this past week involving academic dishonesty. It was not enjoyable to bring this to the direct attention of the student involved, who did acknowledge the dishonesty. It's a judgment call as to when any given situation deserves a closer look. Professionals respect one another's judgment in the field, though not all would make the same decisions or draw the same conclusions in any particular set of circumstances.

    From this teacher's perspective, yes, it was a possibilty that your son's burst of excellence was a splinter skill or leap of ability, but it was also a possibility that he had extra help. I wouldn't get too upset about it. In fact, it's actually great news that your son is doing so well. You've provided the teacher assurance that you did not assist your son with this writing task, and that's what she needed to know.

    The teacher involved used her professional judgment and questioned the situation. I know there was not cheating here, but under the circumstances, I'm not sure I believe that it was wrong for your son's teacher to have skepticism about it.
  7. Farmwife

    Farmwife Member


    Glad things are going in your direction.

    As for the staff meeting prior to your talk with the teacher, don't worry too much. As I recall you mentioned that you have a long history with the school not just as a parent but also as a team member. I also recall you mentioning this teacher was relatively new. I would guess that you have a long established reputation that is favorable or they wouldn't have you on the hiring board. In that sort of situation people who know you would question a hasty judgment made by another. Though they may nod their heads just to let the speaker run their course they still may be thinking "I'm not so sure, she seems like a very honest person" in their minds.

    She may have even pointed her finger at students that other teachers like or see a lot of potential in which could make her look foolish. Not all teachers see a student or group of students in the same way.

    If this teacher sings her own praises of being an expert too much the other staff members will start to be less and less impressed. If she is quick to judge or quick to find fault that will speak for itself as well. I suspect she has built her own reputation and it may not be as helpful or constructive as yours. Teacher or not, person of authority or not, the people who matter know YOU and your difficult child for who you guys really are.;) I suspect that any staff hired while you were on the board think of you kindly and the rest have had a long working realtionship with you that includes TRUST...

    Don't be so quick to assume anyone took what she said to heart. She may be a pain to them as well.
  8. idohope

    idohope Member

    I am also glad that things are moving in a better direction.

    You indicated that you would like to sit down with the teacher to review what was raised the questions and what could be done to have difficult child 3 produce work like this more often. I suggest that if you do that that there be a third party in the room. Perhaps the principal or SPED teacher. Would principal be able to arrange this meeting in a positive way so that it is not obvious that a third person is being inserted? Given the history I would be cautious of you meeting individually with this teacher to further discuss this particular topic.
  9. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Obviously you completely understand how the faculty interacts. Although there is progress, I imagine it is very frustrating trying to find the right balance so future dealings are satisfactory. The vulnerability of our children just makes it imperative to compromise...even when that is not the outcome we are seeking. As always you're doing an extraordinary job. DDD
  10. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Sounds like you're getting the right kind of feedback so far. Sorry about the backpedalling.
    I can't add much more than others here have said ... just wanted to lend support.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    WearyWoman, I fully understand that she had to act on her suspicions and ask. I was OK with being asked, "Did you write it for your son?" I am glad she felt she could ask me.

    My distress has been that she did not believe me when I said no, I didn't do it and of course I would not, it would be too damaging and pointless.

    If I can't clear my name with her or with the faculty, and if they cannot trust me on this (and trust difficult child 3 on this) then because of the way this school works, we will get no more support academically form this faculty. Not in ways we need.

    I would not meet with her alone. I am considering asking the head teacher to be present (someone who I think also needs convincing) plus SpEd, plus maybe principal, plus therapist who has already offered. And if they still don't believe - then I want them to call difficult child 3 in and talk to him about their concerns. I have said nothing to him and that will be obvious when they begin to question him.

    This teacher is a new teacher for difficult child 3, in that she hasn't been his teacher before. She is not new to the school. I also believe she is very good at her job, and when she says she has considerable experience in assessing students written work, she does. But I think that could be part of the problem - her experience is far more skewed to easy child kids' responses, doesn't include the difficult children, especially the Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids who can be far LESS inhibited in written expression if suddenly it's about something they're passionate about.

    From what I'm assuming (it's taken time to go through the subtle notes and draw inferences, I still don't know for sure) I think the task in question that set off her alarm bells, was when the kid were asked to write a speech and present the assessment as palm notes for a speech. The logistics mean that a speech isn't actually given, although I offered to get difficult child 3 to make his speech to the computer and record it, so he could try facial expressions, pauses for timing, etc. But not all the kids have this technology so it might not have been fair to the other kids.
    Anyway, the speech was to be about personal experience, it was to make reference to a quote from a film they had been studying (a personal growth kind of quote) and it was to discuss this aspect of, "if at first you don't succeed..."
    Now difficult child 3 spent a lot of personal time with a teacher last year, working on self-esteem and personal development. Plus we've made sure he has had opportunities to learn some good social skills in some unusual situations. difficult child 3 took one of those situations and wrote about that, finishing with the comment, "I didn't think I could do it, but I persisted. And it paid off. I felt really good about myself for doing this. If I hadn't tried, I would have felt bad. And that is not something to aim for. Instead, keep trying, because the chance of success is worth it."
    I'm writing this now, you understand, based on what I recall difficult child 3 wrote. He put in a lot more detail, but was very positive in how he expressed it. And the teacher felt that the choice of words ("Little Professor" syndrome backfires badly here) was not his, because most of the papers she reads like this come form PCs who tend to be more self-deprecating. Or something. Basically, her radar went off to such an extent, that my assurances count for nothing.

    I know we didn't cheat. So knowing that, the alternative (that difficult child 3 really did it himself and despite doing well is now distrusted, when he needs to be mentored) is something I cannot accept continuing. If it cannot be resolved, then despite all the good stuff at this school, we will not be able to continue his eduction there, since we cannot avoid this faculty and if they continue to view us with distrust, he just won't be able to achieve anything in that (unfortunately essential) subject.

    I realise it could look too much like "Methinks she protesteth too much" but I have no choice. Unless they can put their scepticism aside and actually work to help difficult child 3 on the working hypothesis that he MAY be honest; that I can accept.

    I really don't care if they like me, hate me or distrust me. But if it is going to affect their work with difficult child 3, and it will if they really distrust me, then this placement has just lost its usefulness.

    That is the tragedy, and this is what I have to tell the teacher when she calls.

    A parent would cheat (and they do) in order to ensure that their precious child gets a few more marks to, say, qualify for medicine or law at uni. It's been fairly obvious to all teachers (or so I thought) that our aim for difficult child 3 is just to get him to graduate and in so doing, find an area of expertise that can be his career path. HE has to find it; if I interfere, then the data is skewed, distorted and valueless.

    Right now I'm really resenting parents who cheat, because I'm paying for their sins. I do not resent the teacher, who was doing her job. But I'm cranky that she still does't understand splinter skills and realise that what set off her radar were the very issues I've been trying to enlist her help with! And the head teacher's help with, two years ago.

    I have to follow through on this. But I can be diplomatic and if she needs to save face, I'm happy to let her, I don't mind being seen as a hysterical over-reactive as long as they really do 'get it' now and put in the right sort of effort.

  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    When we talked yesterday, the principal told me to expect a call from the teacher later this week. Well I just realised, she doesn't work on Fridays and she still hadn't rung by today. So the call won't be happening this week after all.

    In the morning (as every morning) the SpEd will be calling. I'm asking her to set up a meeting in, say, ten days' time. I'm also going to challenge a deduction in marks difficult child 3 got, for something he had an exemption for. I'm off now to double-check my facts first, through old emails. Because all requests for exemptions etc, even if made verbally, have to be minuted and put in writing. And I keep darn good records!